Ups and downs

By Pete Reilly Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/11 1:48:03

One last day of drama left in Premier League

Huddersfield Town players throw manager David Wagner in the air as they celebrate staying in the Premier League after a 1-1 draw at Chelsea on Wednesday in London, England. Photo: VCG

The final day of the Premier League season takes place on Sunday and there are still vital games at both ends of the table.

Manchester City confirmed that they were champions some time ago, and their romp over Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday ensured that they are the record points holders and record scorers of a single Premier League season. The bad news for Southampton, one of the two teams that can join Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion in the Championship next season, is that City's players don't have any other immediate distraction and the chance to reach the 100-point mark for Pep Guardiola's squad is probably too tempting for them to ease off.

Champions League spots

Manchester United needed a single point from their game in hand at West Ham United on Thursday night to secure second place behind their city rivals. Even if they lost at the London Stadium, they still go into the last fixture of the season at home to a Watford team that has had their minds on the summer holidays for most of 2018. Watford are safe and United's players are playing for their place in Jose Mouinho's FA Cup squad next weekend. These factors combined with the inevitable outpouring of emotion from the fans following former manager Sir Alex Ferguson's recent health issues, and the news that he is out of intensive care should ensure the home side go out looking for all three points.

Tottenham Hotspur could still catch Manchester United to finish second for the second season in a row - a mark of what Mauricio Pochettino has achieved at the club even with having to play at Wembley this season. But they could also still be caught by Liverpool. Spurs can make sure of at least third by beating Leicester City in their final home game at the national stadium before they return to a revamped White Hart Lane for the start of next season.

Liverpool only need a point to come fourth and make sure that they are in the Champions League next season no matter what happens in Kiev, Ukraine in a fortnight. The Reds' superior goal difference means that even if Chelsea can win, it will need to be by at least 15 goals, which is improbable if not actually impossible.

The match away to Newcastle United could be manager Antonio Conte's final Premier League game in charge of last year's champions if, as expected, he leaves the club in the summer. It has been a disappointing defense of their title but they still have a chance of silverware in the FA Cup final against Manchester United, and a place in the Wembley showpiece should be motivation for Conte's players.

The good news for whoever ­finishes fourth is that they go straight into the group stage of next year's Champions League rather than having to go through qualifying. 

Relegation battles

After Huddersfield Town took a point off Chelsea at the John Smith's Stadium in midweek, places from sixth to 16th in the table are playing for a combination of pride and prize money - with each position on the league table worth at least 1 million pounds ($1.3 million) more to the club on the final day.

Sixth-placed Arsenal travel to 16th-placed Huddersfield for a game that will see the hosts celebrate retaining their Premier League status and the English game bid farewell to Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager.

That means the bottom of the ­table is where the action is and there will be hearts in mouths for the fans of Swansea City and Southampton on Sunday.

They will find solace in the fact that there have been last-day escapes before and for one team there will be again.

The two teams met in midweek at Swansea's Liberty Stadium with Southampton's Italian striker Manolo Gabbiadini proving the match-winner with the only goal of the game. It could prove absolutely vital.

Southampton need just a point to make sure that their slide towards the Championship is arrested at the last moment.

In contrast, Swansea not only need to win but they also need to make up nine goals in goal difference on the Saints, but as if the fixture gods had smiled upon them, their relegation rivals are facing the division's top scorers and the team that has scored the most goals in a Premier League season ever. City needed a last-minute ­winner to beat the Saints in November, but that 2-1 win seems a world away for both sides and won't play into the script at Saint Mary's on Sunday.

Swansea host relegated Stoke City and will hope that Mark Hughes' former team will want to do the Swans a favor to ensure that the Welshman has had a hand in relegating two teams in the same season.

The champions have hit teams for six and seven goals this season, so there is reason for hope in South Wales, but the question is whether the Swans' strikers can soar on Sunday. Saints fans will be praying they can't.

There will be tears somewhere for sure as another dramatic Premier League season draws to a close.


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